Despite Charlie Davies resuming full training with club side Sochaux Monday, U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley still says the speedy striker has in no way locked down a World Cup spot.
"I think the fact that Charlie is that far along is great, but certainly even within the framework of being back in training, let's face it, there's different levels there," Bradley said Thursday, according to Sports Illustrated.
Sochaux president Alexandre Lancombe proclaimed last week that Davies won't feature in the last four games of the Ligue 1 season, suggesting Bradley's concerns are well grounded.
In October, Davies was involved in a single-car accident which broke his leg, elbow, eye-socket, and nose, as well as lacerated his bladder and left him with head trauma. Another passenger of the car died.
Since then, the 23-year-old has undergone strenuous rehabilitation just to reach this point, of training normally with his team. Still, the hardest part lays ahead, says Bradley.
"Those final steps are the hardest steps, so we still need to see where that goes," Bradley said. "This is a great story, and Charlie is a popular guy. He's a guy that everybody likes. You can't help but feel that way about him.
"The only part that's coming up is this: There's going to be a decision on our end that is simply about the World Cup."
On May 11, Bradley will name a preliminary 30-man roster. From that list, 26-28 will participate in an eight-day camp in Princeton, N.J. The final 23-man roster is due June 1, with kickoff against England on June 12.
Bradley realizes the dream of taking part in that game against England on the world's biggest stage has driven Davies in his recovery, but has to temper the emotional pull of the story with doing what he and the coaching staff see as best for the team's chances overall.
"I know that's been one of his motivating forces in this whole thing," Bradley said. "I know that a lot of his drive has been with that goal. And that means something to all of us. But at the end of the day, we still have to assess completely where he is as we make decisions, even for the camp."
If Davies can't regain the form or fitness to convince the coaching staff he deserves a World Cup roster slot, it could open up the door for others to earn a plane ticket to South Africa.
Bradley spoke positively of both Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez as possible options. Buddle has scored seven goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy in five games to sear to the top of the MLS goalscoring charts. Former Galaxy striker Gomez notched 10 goals in the Mexican Primera Division for Puebla to tie for first in the Bicentenario 2010 scoring table.
"If a player is playing well, if you think that he's doing things that will translate well to international games and that he's at a point in his career that he can handle that type of jump, then you go for it," Bradley said. "In other cases, you may look at a player and just feel that he's doing well but right now this is probably a little bit too much to ask. There's no set formula for that. That's a little bit of instinct, a little bit of gut feel. Certainly it's predicated on where you are with other players."
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